Digital Imaging Software Review: Imagenomic Noiseware. Digital Camera Home >. Photo Software >.
Imagenomic Noiseware. AND MOREBy MIKE PASINI. Editor. The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter. Review Date: March 2. Last year several camera manufacturers significantly increased the sensitivity of their sensors even in some of the more affordable digicams.
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The push, so to speak, was to enable more options for available light photography - - and reduce any reliance on the pitiful little built- in flash. And, for the most part, the increase was managed by turning up the volume, increasing the signal gain. In almost all cases, noise reduction was automatically applied to these high ISO images. Some cameras do better than others, but as manufacturers cram more photo sites on tiny digicam sensors, the problem is unavoidable.
You really have to have a 3- megapixel digicam to avoid it. And image noise is starting to get noticed just like shutter lag once was: as a nuisance no one talks about. When you review images on your LCD, the data has been resampled to fit on your screen so much the noise disappears. When you print images, the data is resampled again for one or another type of print screen, minimizing the effect. What you see may make you reach for the phone to call tech support. Instead of the smooth blue you think you shot, you've captured a mosaic of discount tiles that hardly match.
And what's that magenta pixel doing in there? Data that didn't come from the scene. It's a fact of digital life. Dark pixels in a lighter area are Luminance Noise. Off- colored pixels are Chrominance Noise. Each sensor in your digicam's CCD is stimulated by light. The more light, the more electrical current.
And this current is converted into data, somewhere between 0 and 2. The photo sites on a sensor are not uniform. Even without light, there may be a little current here and less there and none here. Where it's really noticeable, we call it a hot pixel. And it varies depending on the temperature of the sensor, too. One of those processes, often optional, is noise reduction.
On high ISO images, however, it often isn't optional. In- camera sharpening and increased contrast settings can, on the other hand, exaggerate noise. It can often be difficult to distinguish between noise and detail in an image, too. And even worse, reducing noise can easily reduce detail. You have to bear in mind how your image will be viewed and how much detail you are trading for noise reduction. We're big fans of natural light photography, hate those puny flashes that beam red- eye into everything and really don't mind a little noise. Reminds us of grainy film.
And we set out to see if there wasn't some tool that would make it feasible to shoot at high ISO and still expect quality results. It would be very welcome around here. But that program requires a module for every camera you own. Not practical for a reviewer. Image analysis occurs before the plug- in displays its window. Here the original is compared to the Default result. What we liked immediately about Noiseware was that, unlike Dfine, it did not need a camera module and unlike Photoshop, it had a complete set of options for controlling noise.
It also improves the more you use it. After several months of processing high ISO digicam images with it, we're ready to report on this tool, which has become indispensable to our workflow. It's also compatible with Vista. One of the tribulations of upgrading your software is making sure your indispensable utilities are not out of phase. It seems Imagenomic is ahead of the curve there. To install it for CS3, we just copied the folder to CS3's plug- in folder. The plug- in appears at the bottom of the Filter menu in Photoshop.
Then you're ready to roll. While they're impressive, it's important to note that you don't have to master them to use the product. Basic use is as straightforward as using Photoshop's Reduce Noise filter, although it's a lot more helpful than Reduce Noise. This built- in expert system uses artificial intelligence to analyze and recognize noise patterns without relying on camera profiles. It can remember the results of its analysis, associating them with the Exif data, to .
Noiseware also provides for specifying custom image regions based on tone, color or detail for analysis. Detail. Guard. This feature let's you safeguard image details during the filtering process with greater control than the global settings. It also protects the color fidelity of the image.
Imagenomic is focused on creating high-performance plugins for retouching, noise and artifact removal, sharpening and other image correction and enhancement processes.
Advanced Filter Controls. The controls available to fine- tune Noiseware include frequency, color and tonal range adjustment and noise reduction parameters as well as dedicated controls form luminance and color noise filtering. These are the sliders you use to adjust the default performance of the plug- in. Noiseware automatically analyzes the image, calculates a noise profile and processes the image when you start it up. Preferences. Just a few refinements. The preview also mimics Photoshop filter behavior by showing the before state when you click and hold in the preview area.
Noiseware has already done its work behind the scenes, so you don't have to make adjustments as you might with Photoshop's Reduce Noise filter (which just remembers your last settings). Default does a good job, but Noiseware can do even better if you apply one of its 1. You'll get smoother skies in your landscapes while preserving detail elsewhere in the image, for example, if you select the Landscape preset. And it's also a great introduction to using the advanced filter controls. Watch how each preset changes them and evaluate the results in the preview window. Preview. The preview shows the results just seconds after you change values. You can zoom the preview from 2.
And you can split it in various ways to see before/after views or compare presets. You can also pan the image in the preview window. A small navigator window makes that very simple. This tweaking starts with the Noise Level adjustment, whose slider can be adjusted for either Luminance of Color Noise from - 2. With a negative value, you tell Noiseware there's really less noise than it found, while a positive value indicates there's more noise.
The lower the percentage, the more of the original image is included in the final output. The higher it is, the more of the filtered image appears. It's something like a fade control. Imagenomic notes that optimal Luminance values in most cases is between 6. Color values are 8.
High frequency noise is contained in individual pixels. Low frequency noise affects a group of pixels, like color banding and blotches. High frequency noise, Imagenomic suggests, can be ignored without affecting image quality but low frequency noise can significantly degrade an image. So Noiseware has a Frequency tab with sliders for four different frequencies of noise: High, Mid, Low and Very Low. Values range from - 2. The Detail Enhancement pane below it provides Sharpening (unsharp masking with oversharpening controls) and Contrast sliders whose values can also be set from zero to 2. There's also a popup to set the amount of Edge Smoothing among Auto, High, Normal and Low.
The Low setting preserves more detail, as for a landscape shot, while a High setting provides more smoothing, as for a portrait. In addition to global fine- tuning, you can restrict Noiseware's analysis to specific parts of the image. The Single Selection tool lets you indicate which part of the image to use for analysis before switching to the Multiple Regions Selection tool that lets you add up to 1. Evaluating Results. Switching between presets and even just twiddling with sliders can make such dramatic and subtle changes to an image that it can be hard to see just what happened. Fortunately, Noiseware has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to help you evaluation results.
You can add up to 2. Bracketing. You can bracket the parameters to make it easier to optimize the effect. You can, for example, create three, five or seven previews showing various Luminance Noise Level adjustments with 2 to 1. Or 5 to 3. 0 percent adjustments for each step on Noise Reduction previews. Self Learning. Noiseware can improve its noise detection with each image it analyzes when you enable its self- learning mode. Profile. Noiseware can show you what it's learned about an image. Noiseware's self- learning also supports Adobe Camera Raw data.
And if the Exif data isn't available to Noiseware, it will disable self- learning. In other words, we expected to run the filter only on images with noise. Noiseware assumes there's noise to be cleaned up in any image you throw at it. So our gorgeous 1.
MB d. SLR landscapes shot at low ISO with little real noise actually suffered a loss of detail when we ran them through Noiseware, even when we protected the detail. These were generally between ISO 8. ISO 3. 20. 0 using large megapixel digicams (from 6- 1. SLR shooting at 1. First, we hadn't built up much a knowledge base for Noiseware to profit from self- learning, having done just a dozen or so high ISO samples for camera reviews.
And secondly, any quibbles we might have had with any of these results would have been our starting place for fine tuning. Maybe that's just us, but it could also be that the program hits very close to a bullseye for most images. Just duplicate the layer, run the filter on the duplicate layer and change the opacity of the duplicate layer until you like the mix of noisy original and smoothed duplicate. If your print surprises you, you can just change the opacity and try again. Uwe Steinmueller has written an article (http: //www. So we've built a gallery of sample images. Images were shot from a variety of cameras including a Casio EX- Z1.
Sony DSC- T1. 0, Fine. Pix S9. 10. 0, Nikon Coolpix S7c, Nikon D7. Panasonic DMC- TZ1, Olympus Stylus 7.
Sony DSC- W3. 0. The Gallery. Twelve comparisons from a variety of digital cameras. Click the image to enter the Gallery.
Each pair includes the camera original and the default Noiseware version (with a .